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The Original Z
Gentle Reader,

Sometimes you may attend an event. You may, in fact, spend a good deal of money and effort to attend an event. The event may be a purely social event, such as a wedding; or it may be a philanthropic event, such as a charity ball or picnic. The goal of the event may, in fact, not be at all social: it may be an event to facilitate business transactions among persons who do business. The more elevated our station in life, the more events it may fall upon us to attend. 

A well run event can make the expenditure of time and effort well worth your while. Sadly, not all events are well run. Some, while being quite well run may not be perfect for you: the dinner may not be to your taste; the music may be too loud, or perhaps not loud enough; you may be seated beside persons of poor manners and worse taste. 

It is at these times that your patience may be sorely tried. It is also at these times that you have an opportunity to show yourself a person of true gentility and generosity of spirit. Anyone may be gracious when everything arranges itself according to her preferences. Tribulation tests us, and only the best people shine under difficult circumstances. 

When faced with something that is not to your liking, and may, in fact, make your afternoon unbearable, it is acceptable to ask your host(s) if arrangements can be made to better accommodate your needs. Do consider, however, whether your request truly represents a thing necessary to your own well being or comfort, or merely a preference, and phrase your request accordingly. If your stated dietary needs are not being met, it is acceptable to request an alternative meal. If you do not like the person beside whom you are seated, it is acceptable to ask someone to change seats with you. If you purchased a raffle ticket, but did not win a prize, suck it up, Buttercup. We can't all win prizes. Consider also whether you can, in fact, live with affairs as they stand, or quietly re-arrange things to better suit your needs.

If a host is not to be found, you may address a member of the host's staff; however, be advised that this person may not be empowered to re-arrange an event for your convenience, and be prepared to wait while advice is sought. Where possible, suggest solutions, rather than simply pointing out problems, but be aware that your proposed solution may not be possible, and accept suggestions graciously. Consider that your host may be juggling considerations for myriad people's convenience and comfort. While no host wishes a guest to be unhappy, the host may have to balance your unhappiness against the prospective unhappiness of another guest, and make a difficult decision.

A caring host will of course place their guests' safety and well being above all else, and their comfort and convenience next.

Do not, under any circumstances, vent your displeasure on servants, staff, or others who merely carry out the host's plans. Responsibility for a event planning rests solely with the host. 

If the displeasing circumstances are truly intolerable, and your host is unwilling or unable to address your concerns, it is acceptable to leave the event. Agreeing to attend an event does not constitute agreement to subject oneself to extreme unpleasantness. You may either quietly leave, or take a brief leave of your host, pleading headache or some other reason for your abrupt departure. If your host has asked you to perform a function, such as giving a speech, at the event, you should absolutely inform them that you will be unable to stay. Your departure is not the time to subject your host to a lengthy or even brief discussion of their shortcomings or the event's failings. Just extricate yourself with as little fuss as you can manage.

Sometime in the weeks following the unpleasant event, you may wish to unburden yourself, and, if appropriate, inform your host of the reason for your abrupt departure. The best way to do this is in the form of a brief, polite, yet sincere note, explaining in what way the event failed to delight you, following the form set out below:
Dear Madame Host,

I appreciated the opportunity to attend your event last Thursday. I was sorry not to have the opportunity to talk more with you, but I fully understand the challenges that running an event like yours entails. 

I was disappointed that dinner was served so late/that there were so few raffle prizes/to find myself seated beside Mr. Boring/the room was so very cold/dinner did not offer a vegetarian option when I had clearly stated on my RSVP that I do not eat meat. I would very much like to support your event in the future, but I would appreciate some assurance that this problem will be addressed. 

Once again, thank you for inviting me to your event. I do hope that apart from the late meal/paucity of raffle prizes/presence of Mr. Boring/icicles hanging from the ceiling/lack of vegetarian options your event was a success. If you have any questions about my experience at your event, I would be delighted to discuss them with you. 

Gentle Reader, be assured that most hosts do, in fact, care about your opinions. They want you to attend their events. They want you to come away from the event entirely pleased with your experience. If they have failed to please you, they will want to know, and to address your concerns; however, they may unfortunately not be in a position to do so at the event. In adverse circumstances, you may show yourself to be a person of great gentility by enduring, addressing, leaving, and ultimately discussing.



Inspired by having been on the receiving end of some truly ungracious behaviour on the part of participants at a fund-raising golf tournament, yesterday. Said participants chewed me out because they didn't like the schedule for the event, which put supper at 7:00 p.m., allowing for the slowest golfers to get in, get changed, and have a drink. The ladies in question told me that our event was smaller than it had been in previous years so we should be accommodating those who paid good money to be there (but apparently not the slow people who also paid good money to be there(?)), that they'd told my boss about wanting an earlier dinner, that they were going to withdraw all their support for the organization if I did not call them into dinner RIGHT THEN. I had gone over to them to let them know that we'd been able to bump the dinner time up by fifteen minutes. Basically, these ladies, one of whom used to be a politician, treated me like dirt. Then we were seated at the same table for an extremely uncomfortable dinner. One also chewed me out because she didn't win a raffle prize.

Take Her Out to the Ball Game

The Original Z
Okay hivemind, this is a big one: 

My grandmom is turning 93 on April 3. She has asked, for her birthday, for opening-game tickets to the Blue Jays game, April 2. These are entirely sold out. 

My family is looking for any leads on the following, in order of preference:

1) a hotel room overlooking the diamond at the Rogers Centre (Grandmom is frail, and we're not sure the rigours of seats at the Rogers Centre would be good for her (currently booked); or

2) a reservation at the restaurant in the Rogers Centre (formerly Sky Dome) (currently rented out for a corporate thingy to which nobody has had the good sense to invite my grandmom); or

3) a pair of tickets (or more than a pair, but she needs to go with at least one other person) to the game and we'll figure out how to get her there and make her comfortable.

Does anyone know anyone (some captain of industry, for example) who might have some opening-game tickets with which they'd be willing to part? If we can, we'd really like to make my grandmom's birthday wish come true. She's been a Blue Jays fan for as long as I can remember. 20 years ago, after she had a double-bypass, the first thing she wanted to do when she was well enough was to go to a game. We got her tickets. I watched the Jays play the Yankees on TV with her. And not to be melodramatic, but she's 93. She doesn't have a lot of Jays games left in her. So we'd really like to make this one happen.


It Never Rains

The Original Z
 I was really broke in January. I finished a freelance project before the holidays, and invoiced for it, and had to wait for the cheque. The course I teach was cancelled. Then I was asked to teach a second section of the online version of the same course, but I had to wait to get paid. 

It was all a bit stressful. 

Then, of course, the freelance cheque came in, and another cheque came in, and I got paid, and everything was fine, just in time for me to go in-house for three months, during which time I will produce six publications for a local film festival. 

Also, just in time to go in-house, I got a cold which may have turned into a sinus infection. 

I am still teaching the online course. In fact, I am teaching both sections of the online course, as the other instructor has become ill and can't continue, and they needed a pinch-hitter, and I didn't want to leave the other instructor (who is a lovely person), my program coordinator (who has been very patient with me), or the students (none of whose fault this is) in the lurch. 

Plus I'm presenting two seminars for the Editors' Association this month.

So, if you don't hear much from me in the near future, it's probably because I am either teaching, grading, making books, or possibly my head has exploded.

Just FYI.  

Orff Orff Orff!

The Original Z
If any of the following apply to you, and you are in the Toronto area on Nov. 14, and have the evening free, you should read on:

1) You like choral music.
2) You're not sure about choral music in general, but you like Carmina Burana (link goes to YouTube). 
3) You're not really sure about Carmina Burana, but you like that "O Fortuna" piece of music that gets played in high-drama movie and TV scenes, like i the movies Excalibur, The Hunt for Red October, Jackass the Movie, and as the entrance theme for the judges on The X-Factor, and you think it might be cool to hear it performed live.

4) You're not stuck on hearing it with a full orchestra. 
5) You like choral music accompanied by percussion ensemble.
6) You're just a general Zingerella-groupie. 
7) You're not going to the Essential Opera performance of TheThreepenny Opera that night. 

My choir is teaming up with the TorQ Percussion Quartet to perform Orff's Carmina Burana, Dove's The Passing of the Year, and Whitacre's Cloudburst at Koerner Hall on Wednesday, November 14

The promo code, which gives you 10 percent off the price of tickets, is TMCWOW (not case-sensitive; all one word). 

So if you want to hear us sing about Gopher Tuna, you should use that code.

On the Naivety of the Conservative

The Original Z
 Something I have observed: Conservatives often like to call people like me—social democrats, communitarians, people who believe that the job of society is to help us better take care of each other—"naive," as though over my entire life, I hadn't had ample opportunities to watch people treating each other pretty badly, hadn't had ample opportunities to see how the world works.


Cut for politicsCollapse )

Do I really need to point this stuff out?

The Original Z

Dear Tom, Libby, and Matthew,

 I recently received an invitation to attend a Town Hall with MPs from my riding and the riding next door (Matthew Kellway and Craig Scott), as well as Libby, pertaining to heath care.

The invitation outlined two NDP strategies that will purportedly help ease the pressure on Canada’s health care system, while ensuring that Canadians receive the care they need:

·      Ensuring that Canadians have access to extended compassionate-care benefits through E.I., and

·      Some nonsense about a forgivable loan so that Canadians can make additions to their homes in order to accommodate relatives who need long-term care.

The Original Z

Today in bike store happenings: 


A customer and her father have asked me to show them our bike carrier racks. I have ascertained from the customer that she wants a good, basic rack on which to carry her things for school. She has her bike with her. I have shown them our basic, everyday rack—the one we put on 90% of the commuter bikes we sell. 


ME: That's a good basic rack.

HER: Can I put a milk crate on it? 

ME: Sure you can—it'll be heavy, but if that's what you want, you can use bungee cords to attach it, or some people bolt them on. 

FATHER: But will it fit on her bike? 

ME: Looking at bike, which is a standard 700-C-wheeled commuter Oh yeah. We install about a billion of these on bikes just like this. You can leave it with us—there's a $10 installation fee—or you can install it yourself. 

FATHER: Is this the hardware? How does it fit?

ME: showing him It mounts here and here, above the axle, and then it bolts to the frame here.

FATHER: Are you sure it's going to fit? 

ME: Yep. Like I said, we install about a billion of these on bikes justs like this. 

FATHER: It's not going to sit too low? 

ME: Holding the rack where it will sit No, it will be fine. Look, it will sit just about here. 

FATHER: Can you ask one of the techs, please?

ME: Looking at my manager, who is 3 feet away Wil, is this rack gonna fit this bike? 

WIL: Glancing up from whatever he was doing. She just told you man, yes, it's gonna fit. 

FATHER: Thank you so much for translating that for me. I couldn't have understood her. 

WIL: Well, she was pretty clear, but it seemed like you were having a hard time. 

FATHER: Thank you. 

Later on, while he's paying for the rack:

FATHER: I didn't mean to offend you. I just wanted to be sure it would fit. 

ME: Oh, geez man, I understand. You just wanted to be sure. How could you know that I might know what I'm talking about? 

FATHER: Well, it's just that I wanted to be sure. 

ME: Deciding that forcing the issue will do no good.  Like I said, it's a standard rack, made for this type of bike. I think it'll work pretty well. Here's your change. Have a good one. 



* This is what Wil and I agreed, when I told him the customer hadn't wanted to offend me. I mean, why would I be offended when this is a known, historical truth? 

cute me
In support of my previous post, I'm going to show you what I do with my day. 

I am not a super-good housekeeper. My one-bedroom apartment is tolerable to me: the dishes get done after every meal, but I often leave them drying in the dish rack for days. My laundry gets done when I run out of clean undies, and I leave it drying in my office until I get a chance to put it away. My bathroom toilet and sink are clean; the tub is tolerable but could use a good solid scrub, and there's a bit of dust and stuff behind the toilet and the sink pedestal. 

I live alone, with the occasional overnight guest. I have no kids. I have one very fluffy cat.

So that leaves 7.5 hours/week to do some portion of the infrequent chores, spend time with friends, go dancing, knit, visit my grandmom, and deal with the random crap that comes up (making appointments, family crises, helping people with things, domestic occurrences), and maybe do something fun and different. 

And I don't have kids. And I'm fully physically able and psychologically functional. And I don't have an aging parent or spousal equivalent. And I don't really do anything very important. And I work from home, so I can sometimes combine work and other tasks like making a big pot of soup. And I'm still not Martha-ready

Now there are ways in which I could be more efficient. I could take fewer hot baths. I could spend less time preparing food, or do big batches of stuff. I could bake less. I could do yoga at home, rather than in a studio. But that would shave tiny amounts of time off the overall total: in order to live the way I prefer to live, I need to spend about 50 hours a week doing various different work-things. I need to sleep about 8 hours/night. I need to eat well, and I need to keep my apartment relatively tidy. And baking keeps me sane. 

My point is not that I could organize my time better, though that's undoubtedly true. My point is that all the things I do have a time-cost, and that in order to do something else, I need to acknowledge the time-cost, and trade things off accordingly. 

The Original Z
 Welcome everyone to my new life-management series. I intend to periodically, as time allows, explain why many of us feel inadequate most of the time. Today's topic is housekeeping. 

Did you know that six hours of housework per day may reduce your risk of breast cancer? It will also result in your having all the laundry done and folded, the carpets vacuumed, the floors mopped and polished, the counters wiped, the things dusted, the spices alphabetized, the oven cleaned, the grout de-gunked, and the ironing done. With six hours of housework per day, you could actually go to sleep in your nicely aired, laundered linens, and sleep the sleep of the houseproud, secure in the knowledge that should Martha Steward or your mother drop in all will be perfect and that you're less likely to get breast cancer than that slattern down the street who doesn't iron her sheets.

So what about that, ladies? Why aren't you scrubbing the toilet with an old toothbrush right the heck now? 

Oh right: you have other things to do

Seriously? Who has SIX HOURS a day to spend on housework? 

Now answer me honestly: how many of you have an extra hour in the day? If the hour-fairy came along and said "Here's an hour for free! Do whatever you want with it!" would you really want to clean the scudge from behind the toilet? If you would, great! Chances are you have a cleaner home than I do. 

Housekeeping is work. It takes time, and for most people, it's not much fun. Most of us have other things that we do in our day that are also not much fun: sometimes we get paid for these things. 

Cut because seriously, who has time to scroll? Collapse )
The Original Z
 So I'm proofreading an anthology of First Nations literature. Super cool. But I've once again come up against a linguistic snag I encounter inevery work on Aboriginal or First Nations or Native anything that crosses my desk: the term "people."

In contemporary English, the noun "people" has a couple of different meanings: it can mean (singular) an ethnicity or group (e.g., the Mik'maqpeople; the Saalish people). Let's call this Sense A. It can also mean the plural of "person" (e.g., several people ate sandwiches). When youwant to say several persons of Aboriginal heritage, you should, technically, say "First Nations people." Let's call this Sense B. 

However, we use "First Nations peoples"  (Sense A, plural) when discussing political or social issues that affect all groups of First Nationspersons (people): "We need to see greater representation from First Nations peoples in discussing environmental issues."

Many people don't seem to get the distinction between Sense A and Sense B, and seem to think that "peoples" is a plural that means "lots ofpersons of different First Nations ethnicities." So I get sentences like  "This was far from the case in Canada, where it would take anothertwenty-five years for Native peoples to begin graduating from universities and colleges in substantial numbers."

This makes no sense! Ethnicities cannot graduate from universities. 

So I queried it, and got the following response:

I checked with the editor and I think “native peoples” as used in the preface is okay as it suggests that there is a diversity of nativepeople (i.e. from different bands or nations). So, the Mik'maq are a Native people, as are Inuit but together they are “native peoples”. They used “native peoples” in the previous edition and even Library and Archives Canada categorized the previous editionas “Native peoples--Literary collections”.


Which is fine, but I still don't think ethnicities can go to university. 

Below the cut: A Usage Note I prepared for a style sheet eight years ago about the SAME ISSUE.

Old usage wankeryCollapse )

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August 2013



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